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U.S. Lawmakers Release Comey Interview Transcript; White House Chief of Staff John Kelly Leaving at Year's End; Jared Kushner Advised MBS after Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed; Yellow Vest Protests in France; Trump "Very Happy" with New Mueller Findings that Implicate Him in Directing Payoffs; U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May Warns of "Uncharted Waters" ahead of Key Vote; Atlanta United Wins Title in Its Second Season. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired December 9, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:00]

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The details of the tense closed door meeting now public. House Republicans release the transcript of their interview with the fired FBI director, James Comey.

Plus the revolving door at the White House keeps on spinning. This time the chief of staff, John Kelly, on his way out the door.

Also ahead this hour, the Yellow Vest protesters demand the president step down and now Emmanuel Macron prepares to address the nation.

We welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: At 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. We start with the man who once led FBI and was fired by the U.S. president, grilled by Republicans on Capitol Hill. And now transcript shows exactly what James Comey had to say and whether Republicans were able to poke holes in his --

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HOWELL: An audio issue off the top there. But we're back.

Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. Again, we start with the man who once led the FBI, who was fired by

the U.S. president, grilled by Republicans on Capitol Hill and now transcripts show exactly what James Comey had to say. Our Laura Jarrett has details for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In over six hours of testimony, the former FBI director went over familiar territory about the beginnings of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying he bet his life the special counsel Robert Mueller is handling it the right way and suggesting you'd have to almost fire everyone in the FBI and the Justice Department to derail the relevant investigations at this point.

But Comey also fact checked the president on this claim that he is somehow best friends with Robert Mueller saying, quote, "I have never hugged or kissed the man," and, quote, "I admire the heck out of the man but I don't know his phone number, I've never been to his house, I don't know his children's names."

While Comey's testimony did not shed new light about his views on whether the president obstructed justice in his firing last year, the testimony from another senior official at the FBI, former general counsel James Baker, described how those at the highest level of the FBI were seriously concerned about Comey's firing.

Finally, Comey was also asked to weigh in on Bill Barr, President Trump's pick for the next attorney general.

And he said he thinks very highly of him, joking that, quote, "I probably just damned him by saying he's a friend of mine. But I respect him and I think he's certainly fit to be attorney general" -- Laura Jarrett, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Laura, thank you.

As for Mr. Trump, he's now looking for chief of staff number three. His current one being shown the door. General John Kelly out of the job by the end of the year. Kelly first worked for the president as Secretary of Homeland Security. Then became chief of staff. He moved into that role to add discipline and order to the White House.

His relationship with the president steadily deteriorated. On Saturday, Mr. Trump said Kelly is a great guy and thanked him for his service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year, we'll be announcing who will be taking John's place. It might be on an interim basis. I'll be announcing that over the next day or two. But John will be leaving at the end of the year.

He's been with me almost two years now, as you know, between the two positions. So we're probably going to see him in a little while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Kelly's time as chief of staff has had its fair share of controversy. CNN's Ryan Nobles looks back at Kelly's embattled tenure.

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RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kelly, the former Marine Corps general, was expected to bring a military style scene of order to the White House. Kelly quickly reined in access to the president, trying to control who could call Trump directly and played a big role in staffing, as evidence of his quick disposal of former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, something Scaramucci is still sore over, as evidence from this interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, TRUMP INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: He has hurt the president and so -- and he has hissy fits.

NOBLES (voice-over): But within weeks, Kelly was forced to confront a series of controversial moves by President Trump that left the White House reeling. In the wake of the racially charged riots in Charlottesville, Kelly was photographed in the background of Trump Tower, looking dour as Trump spoke.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don't have any doubt about it, either.

NOBLES (voice-over): Kelly had urged the president to offer a more forceful condemnation of the white supremacists involved. But Trump did not take the advice.

The relationship really started to unravel during the public relations disaster surrounding former staff secretary Rob Porter. Porter was accused of abuse by two ex-wives. Kelly initially defended him. The president personally blamed his chief of staff for the fallout.

Despite the hiccups, the president repeatedly sang Kelly's praises on Twitter and pushed back on reports that he was unhappy with his work.

TRUMP: He is doing a great job. He'll be here, in my opinion, for the entire seven remaining years.

NOBLES (voice-over): Behind the scenes, it was a different story. In Bob Woodward's book, "Fear," the veteran journalist quotes Kelly as describing Trump as a, quote, " idiot," and also said, "We're in Crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had."

Kelly later called that, quote, "BS," and Trump said publicly he believed him.

Their public pronouncements aside, the tension inside the West Wing was obvious. Kelly recently got into a heated shouting match with -- [04:10:00]

NOBLES (voice-over): -- national security adviser John Bolton and now that it may be finally the end of his tenure, Kelly and the president are no longer speaking.

For Kelly, leaving this job may actually come as a welcome relief.

GEN. JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of Homeland Security. But I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

NOBLES (voice-over): Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Peter Mathews, a professor of political science at Cypress College.

Peter, thank you for your time.

PETER MATHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: You're welcome.

HOWELL: Let start with the former FBI director James Comey's testimony.

How much impact do you believe it will have and did we learn anything new there?

MATHEWS: Nothing new. But the reiteration of it was very good because it showed the rule of law is still extremely important not just for Comey but for all of us. Comey warned us about getting numb on the attack of rule of law.

The Republicans are only interested in just going after Hillary Clinton's emails once again. So it's quite a contrast there between Comey's approach and the Republican leadership on the committees.

HOWELL: With regard, though, to Comey's comments about Robert Mueller, that if Mueller were fired, that it wouldn't derail these investigations or would the impact, in your view, be more significant?

MATHEWS: I think he's got a point because Mr. Mueller has farmed out a lot of work to entities that can't be touched, for example, the Southern District of New York. They got a lot of information he's already given them. They are already acting on it.

If he were to be fired, there are other avenues that have been opened and there are institutions that are working forward on this issue. And the investigation will not stop. I think that Mr. Trump will still be in jeopardy for what he may have done already. So I'm not worried about Mueller getting fired. HOWELL: Another big headline out of the Trump White House is that the chief of staff, John Kelly, is on his way out the door, this revolving door, out of the Trump White House. The two reportedly are not even speaking to each other, Peter.

How big of an impact will this have on the Trump White House, in your view?

MATHEWS: Well, it's going to have an impact because he was brought in, the chief of staff was brought in to bring stability to the White House and for a while he did that. He was able to make sure people coming in to meet the president were cleared for it and it was all organized.

But the president had a very freestyle, winging it type of manner where he didn't like that type of organization and that's one reason why they clashed on the process and procedures of this.

It could happen once again, even with a new chief of staff, the president's personality is such that he is not into having an organized, methodical way of doing things. That can be a real problem and could be a completely unsettled White House again, no matter who's in the chief of staff position.

HOWELL: Peter, you talk about these various investigations being farmed out into different places. Let's focus on those core filings. The new insight we're getting, it shows there's a lot of smoke and goes as far as implicating individual number one as the alleged mastermind that led criminal activity, Individual-1 we understand is the President of the United States.

But a lot of smoke, Peter, but is there a smoking gun from what you see?

MATHEWS: I think we've come the closest to having a smoking gun at this point. As a matter of fact, the term "unindicted co-conspirator" comes to mind because that's what happened with Watergate, when the Watergate grand jury actually labeled President Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator, which means somebody who actually conspired illegally with someone else to commit a crime or to use illegal means to achieve an illegal end, as Trump has done, apparently, according to these reports.

He actually directed Cohen, according to Cohen. And I think that the Southern District of New York attorneys would not even put this forth if they didn't have corroborating evidence. It's very serious right now because if he's conspired with Cohen to pay off Stormy Daniels and Ms. McDougal that's a felony right there. I think that's as close to a smoking gun as we've come.

HOWELL: Peter Mathews, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

MATHEWS: You're welcome. Thanks, George.

HOWELL: We now know that the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has reportedly been advising the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, privately since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to "The New York Times" reporting.

Kushner has counseled the crown prince on how to weather the storm of the international outrage, as gruesome details came to light about the killing. The Saudis denied the crown prince played any role in Khashoggi's murder.

But last week U.S. senators came out of a classified CIA briefing, convinced the crown prince was behind it. My colleague Ana Cabrera spoke with --

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HOWELL: -- one of the reporters who broke the Khashoggi story.

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MARK MAZZETTI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Since Khashoggi's killing, we report that he's continued these messaging conversations with Mohammed bin Salman. Some of the advice he's given is unclear.

But it's our understanding that he has been advising him to settle some of his problems in the region, within the kingdom, avoiding mistakes that -- clearly, the killing of Khashoggi was more than a mistake -- but he sees MBS as someone who is the future and, I think, an important ally of the United States.

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HOWELL: The reported one-on-one conversations and text messages between Kushner and the crown prince were in apparent disregard of White House protocols that required a member of the national security staff to be included in any communications with foreign officials.

The White House did not respond to CNN's request for comment but a spokesperson told "The New York Times" this, "Jared has always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines regarding the relationship with Mohammed bin Salman and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts," end quote.

The Saudis have offered varying and sometimes contradictory accounts of Khashoggi's killing from the day he disappeared after he went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. They first denied he was even missing. Only later did they admit he was dead, supposedly killed by rogue operatives.

The White House and U.S. State Department say the U.S. has not reached a conclusion. But last month the CIA assessed Khashoggi's murder, that it was personally ordered by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

We're following a story in Paris, the streets open for business this day, a day after thousands of Yellow Vest protesters took over the city center. Some clashed with police and were met with tear gas, met with water cannons and rubber bullets.

Protesters are angry with the French president and his economic policies and have been demanding his resignation. Let's go live to the French capital. CNN's Melissa Bell standing by on the story.

Melissa, what a difference a day makes. Businesses open today.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're over here on the Champs-Elysees. The shops that had all their fronts boarded up, took the boards down. Businesses are opening once again in Paris. A cleanup operation is underway.

Of course, this is also a moment for the government to reflect on what went on for the Yellow Vest movement and to take stock of what happened yesterday.

A few important points. We listened to the French government spokesman saying violence was down on Saturday. Tension was down. That's what we saw in the streets. Cars were torched, tear gas and rubber bullets were used by police to disperse protesters. We saw several skirmishes but nothing like the violence of the week before.

That speaks to that difference in the police strategy, much more proactive this time. Many more arrests, twice as many arrests as there had been last Saturday. So a definite attempt on the part of authorities to keep that violence down to minimum levels.

And yet, the Yellow Vest protesters really face this question, did they manage to keep the momentum up in terms of the numbers?

Yes; 136,000 protested nationwide, which was the same figure as last week. Still they managed to keep this pressure up on the government. We'll wait to hear what the French president, Emmanuel Macron, will have to announce tomorrow in terms of measures that might go some way to answering that key demand, what's become their crucial demand, which is a problem with the cost of living.

They want measures from the government, these Yellow Vest protesters, to help them make ends meet and that's what we're looking to the French president to announce tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how far in their direction he's willing to go.

HOWELL: You're touching on this but, again, we expect to hear from the French president soon.

Is there a sense that Emmanuel Macron is reactive, that he's open to hearing what these protesters have to say?

BELL: I think definitely these last few days the tone from the government has changed. Until last week, there had been this very definitive sort of, we'll not bow down to this pressure message from authorities. That changed this week when the French prime minister, who was really in the front line of this until now, announced first a suspension of the controversial fuel tax hike that had been at the start of all this on November 17th and then its cancellation altogether.

He then met with some Yellow Vest protesters on Friday afternoon but there's been a deliberate strategy on the part of the government to have the French president to speak to the French people without making things worse and trying to improve things going forward. It's going to be important he speaks at all. He's been accused --

[04:20:00]

BELL: -- of not having heard the protesters enough, not having found the right tone so far or, indeed, of having addressed the issue enough, certainly not enough from the point of view of the Yellow Vest protesters.

So will he find the words tomorrow?

Will he find the tone?

Will he find the measures to appease them?

The fact is he's beginning to try to do some of that.

HOWELL: Will he find even a representative to stand for the protesters?

Because it seems that there's no organized central representative. So the French government certainly focused on trying to understand, respond and react to what these protesters have to say. Melissa Bell live for us in Paris. Thank you.

Let's talk more with Bruno Cautres, a professor of political science at Sciences Po, joining us via Skype from Tunis, Tunisia.

Pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you.

BRUNO CAUTRES, SCIENCES PO: Thank you.

HOWELL: Bruno, given what we saw on the streets of Paris the other day, where do you see this movement going from here?

CAUTRES: It's pretty difficult to predict exactly. We know that the mobilization level is still very large. The level of violence yesterday was much weaker than a week before but the mobilization remains quite high.

If you hear what those people are saying, they continue to ask Emmanuel Macron, not just a question of the cost of living, now it's much more political. They would like to talk about the deficit making (ph) of Emmanuel Macron, social inequality, social justice. So it's starting to be a much, much more political perspective than in the beginnings.

HOWELL: Let's talk about how this started again. These protesters pushing back against a fuel tax, which would have effectively helped to support France's goals on climate change. We even saw the U.S. president throwing some water on this on Twitter.

He essentially said people don't want to pay large sums of money in order to maybe, he says, protect the environment.

But what does this say about the will of working people to pay for the clean economy and, if not through tax, how can governments adjust to reach these goals?

CAUTRES: You know, it's not like -- it's not like only France. I think in most industrial societies and countries, we have exactly the same conflict. The basic conflict is economy or ecology. Emmanuel Macron decided to do ecology first but ignoring the cost, the question of the cost.

People are obviously ready to pay for that but they don't want to be the only ones, the ordinary citizens, don't want to be the only ones to pay. And then you have the question of taxing the rich. Emmanuel Macron in the beginning decided to remove a special tax on the rich. And the Yellow Vests are claiming Macron, do it back, tax the rich, not us first.

HOWELL: So the French president, of course, he did back down from this fuel tax. The protests, though, continue. Here's the question.

Is there a sense that Emmanuel Macron is handling this situation effectively?

Is he listening to what these protesters have to say?

Or does he find himself in a very vulnerable position now?

CAUTRES: You know, Emmanuel Macron, I would say his back is to the wall. If he wants to save his mandate, it's just that. It's saving the moment. On Emmanuel Macron, the big question today, I think that Emmanuel Macron must show himself to be more modest, to eventually recognize error of communication but also error in policy choices.

I would even say that maybe Emmanuel Macron is probably back to like on a second mandate. The first mandate of Emmanuel Macron is probably something other. Emmanuel Macron needs to reinvent himself.

In the end, it's going to be a very tough task because the image of Emmanuel Macron is clearly damaged by this situation, by this amazing crisis that we've seen in France for more than three weeks.

HOWELL: Help our viewers understand the composition of the protests we're seeing. Again, these Yellow Vests. Again the yellow vests are required, French people, to keep them within their cars in the event of an emergency.

The Yellow Vests now represent this movement and, Bruno, what we're seeing it seems to be the far right getting involved, the far left involved, working class people getting involved, talking about economics, talking about social issues. Help us understand the composition.

CAUTRES: The composition is probably far left than far right but not only.

[04:25:00]

CAUTRES: You need to go back to the first round of the presidential election if you want to analyze what's going on. Just remember, on the first round of the presidential election, Jean, the far left, got 20; Marine le Pen, the far right, got 21. So actually 41 percent of the French voter, those were extreme choices on the first round of the election.

And Emmanuel Macron made probably quite a big mistake in ignoring the first round, just concentrating on the second round against Marine le Pen. So yes, it's gone from the far left to the far right but not only. You have much more citizens than only the far left and the far right.

And this is basically the question of inequality, social justice, the cost of living. Typically Left issues, actually the Left demanding the French republic is amazingly high.

HOWELL: Bruno Cautres, thank you again for your time and perspective. We'll keep in touch with you.

CAUTRES: Thanks.

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HOWELL: 1.5 degrees: if the Earth's average temperature rises any more than that the results could be disastrous. Nations are coming together in Poland working to keep global warming under 2 degrees but experts warn that target may be tough to reach. Not ambitious enough.

Above 1.5 degrees, over pre-industrial levels the impact of climate change grows. CNN is exploring the consequences of past inaction and how what comes next could be much worse if warming doesn't stop at that critical threshold.

CNN investigates a key and often overlooked cause of greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming. Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, went to my home state, Texas, to the world's beef capital with this report.

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do you eat and what does it cost you?

The planet, your children's future.

How does it affect our struggle to limit global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius?

Texas is the beef capital of America, the world. Meat was once a luxury but now it's at the core of life here. It's a tribal symbol. Meet Bevo the steer, the mascot.

The grill out: burger, sausage, steak, ribs. Excess is the point.

This amphitheater of teenage dreams closed now, but it's for a generation who may see these excesses, these heights of everything being everywhere and cheap, end in their lifetime.

WALSH: Think about it this way, half a pound of beef causes as much greenhouse gas to be emitted as driving 55 of these cars for one mile.

WALSH (voice-over): If mankind were on this planet for the length of this football game, it would have this much time left of the game to fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The backdrop there, the University of Texas; fascinating report from our Nick Paton Walsh. Of course, we'll continue to follow this very important story.

It is a familiar line from the U.S. president. Donald Trump says new court documents prove he didn't conspire with Russia. But the filings, well, they tell a different story. We'll have details on that ahead for you.

Plus a Brexit cliffhanger at the cliffs of Dover. Why the port town is feeling anxious about leaving the E.U.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.

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HOWELL: Now back to the various investigations around the Trump White House. The U.S. president says he's done nothing illegal. This after court filings that implicate him in two felonies before the 2016 presidential election.

According to those documents filed on Friday, Mr. Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, broke campaign finance laws when he paid off two women who each claim that they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

Here's the important part. The filings say Cohen paid the women at the direction of Donald Trump. The president says he never directed Cohen to commit any election related crimes. He also spoke about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Listen.

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TRUMP: On the Mueller situation, we're very happy with what we're reading because there was no collusion whatsoever. There never has been. The last thing I want is help from Russia on a campaign. A very one-sided situation but I think it's all turning around very nicely. But as far as the report that we see, according to everybody I've spoken to, I've not read it. There's absolutely no collusion which is very important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Legally there's a lot to parse through here. Let's bring in former U.S. attorney Harry Litman joining us via Skype from San Diego this hour.

Harry, thank you for your time.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks for having me, George.

HOWELL: I want to focus in on the op-ed --

[04:35:00]

HOWELL: -- that you wrote in "USA Today." The information learned from these cast a long shadow over the U.S. president. One key item, the issue of campaign finance violations.

How serious are they?

Mr. Trump has claimed they are not a crime.

It is likely Congress would try to remove a president over this alone?

LITMAN: Well, two separate questions.

Are they a crime and would Congress try to remove a president over?

As to the first, they are not only a crime, they're a serious crime and the Southern District of New York memorandum took some pains to spell that out. You could try to construe it as a mere bureaucratic oversight, a failure to file.

But as the prosecutors spell out, this really undermined the vital goal of transparency in the electoral system; kept the American people from knowing what they were buying, so to speak.

And we know that both Cohen and the president -- or then the nominee, the candidate -- thought it was going be very problematic for the candidacy and that's why they did it. So as to the crime itself, does it fit elements of campaign finance?

Yes.

Is it a serious crime?

Yes. The crime itself for Cohen, it's been recommended he gets several years in prison.

HOWELL: We know less about whether any criminal activity occurred involving the Trump Tower Moscow project. Some have argued quid pro quo, collusion could be impossible to prove.

How likely is it that any smoking gun could be found here?

LITMAN: Well, again, I think that's not so unlikely. And, remember, what we had from the memo from Robert Mueller was simply a kind of bland and brief recitation that's a summary -- and an elliptical summary at that -- of many, many hours of true body testimony from Michael Cohen.

It seems now clear that, deep into the campaign, almost to the point of the convention, both Cohen and the -- then candidate Trump were avidly pursuing what had been a many years' dream of Trump to put a Trump Tower in Moscow.

And the overall scheme was to try to elect Trump; have him ease the sanctions, something that the Russians dearly wanted, and then have Trump get the Moscow tower, something that he dearly wanted.

Even though they abandoned it before it came to fruition, that would state, under law, a bribery conspiracy at least. And that is an illegal objective.

HOWELL: One other thing I would like to talk about, the president saying the last thing he would want is help from Russia but there was a moment that a lot of people remember it shows that's not exactly true. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: there was no collusion whatsoever. There never has been. The last thing I want is help from Russia on a campaign.

Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Remember that?

Besides Mr. Trump asking for emails, we also know his campaign was willing to accept help from Russia because of the Trump Tower meeting.

What do you make of the president's claim that there is no evidence of collusion?

LITMAN: You know, by now, it's sort of like a wind-up doll. I mean just, he just says it. I just don't think there's much to credit here, even after this week's revelation, which, to any even Trump fanatic, which obviously is damaging to the president, he just said breezily yesterday, well, that clears me, thank you very much.

Really, that was the tenor of his tweet. I think he has opted for a kind of political strategy of just pretending nothing is there and hopes, sort of "The Emperor's New Clothes," like if he says it now and with enough brazenness and confidence, it will take with a sufficient slice of the American electorate and the Senate to keep him out of ultimate hot water.

HOWELL: Harry Litman, thank you again for your time.

LITMAN: Thanks for having me, George.

HOWELL: Now to the United Kingdom, where it's like that show, "Deal or No Deal." The British prime minister Theresa May facing a key vote on Tuesday as she tries to get --

[04:40:00]

HOWELL: -- Parliament on board to approve her Brexit plan. Let's go live to London. CNN's Hadas Gold following the story in our London bureau.

Hadas, right now it seems she does not have the votes.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, George, it seems more and more Theresa May is on her own, as she tries to convince more members of Parliament to get on board with her plan and vote in favor of that deal on Tuesday.

But not only does she seem on her own here in London, I went to Dover, a beautiful part of Southeast England which voted heavily in Brexit. The public there seem just as skeptical of her deal. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOLD (voice-over): The white cliffs of Dover, the symbol of Britain's frontier with Europe, today battered by a storm just as Theresa May tries to weather political turbulence back in London.

This vital port, which handled a record 2.6 million trucks last year, could be approaching a no deal cliff's edge if Parliament votes down the prime minister's deal.

At a town favorite, the Dovorian, locals and dock workers gather for a traditional English breakfast. Like the 62 percent of people here who voted for Brexit in 2016, many of them just want to leave, no matter the terms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There should be no revote. We voted out so we stay out. Yes, that's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Theresa May's deal is a very poor one. It doesn't mean leaving. We're tied into a backstop no one can understand. And we should leave, no deal, no vote (ph).

If the traffic is held up at Dover, it will also be held up at Calais.

How long do you think the French will put up with that?

GOLD (voice-over): Government officials and businesses have warned of chaos, from miles of freight waiting for customs checks, to bodies piling up in morgues if there's no Brexit deal. GOLD: No matter the outcome in London, this area will bear the brunt

of that result. For the majority here who voted to leave the European Union, just 22 miles across this channel, they just want the politicians to get on with it.

GOLD (voice-over): Out of the rain and up the road at the Astor (ph) Community Center in Deal, the monthly tea dance attracts a mix of Remainers and Leavers. What unites them, aside from teaching newcomers how to dance, their frustrations with the Brexit process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No deal at all. That's fine. It's absolute nonsense because I'm old enough to remember, what, about nearly 40 years, when we weren't in Europe. So we just go back to that. Just go back to square one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately, we've got the wrong prime minister although I voted for her doing it. I just think whatever happens next week -- and I don't she will get through -- I just think we're going to end up with a mess.

GOLD (voice-over): Little confidence here in Theresa May's plan, remain or leave, deal or no deal, fox trot or the waltz, the people in southeast England are feeling out of step with the politicians.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GOLD: And George, Theresa May today was continuing to ratchet up the alarm bells about what would happen if her deal does not pass on Tuesday. She said it would cause a lot of uncertainty for the country and warned members of her own party and other members of Parliament for something they might see as even worse: a Labour leader like Jeremy Corbyn taking over as prime minister -- George.

HOWELL: A great deal of uncertainty, Hadas, but, hey, at least you picked up the fox trot.

GOLD: Tried to.

(LAUGHTER)

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, the long wait is over for Atlanta sports fans. For the first time in 23 years, they get to celebrate a championship victory. A recap of the MLS title game ahead. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Just a few steps away from CNN World Headquarters here in Atlanta, there was a game being played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium that everyone here was watching. Atlanta United captured its first ever MLS Cup. The team has only been around now for two seasons.

But on Saturday, they beat the Portland Timbers, ending the city of Atlanta's 23-year title drought. CNN's Patrick Snell was there and has this story.

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PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In 1998, the Chicago Fire won the MLS cup in their very first season. Atlanta United have now done it in just their second season. Here in the home team's locker room, one very big party is just getting started.

MICHAEL PARKHURST, ATLANTA UNITED CAPTAIN: It's incredible. I mean, what a night here tonight. You can't say enough about it. I mean, the support that we get is incredible. It's such an awesome place to play. The facility, the staff, the fans, you know, everything is just top-notch.

And hopefully it's taken MLS to the next level because it's good for the league and we're enjoying it.

CHRIS MCCANN, ATLANTA UNITED MIDFIELDER: I think when you leave England, the home of football, you think you're not quite sure what you'll step into. But when you come over here and you see that a closing argument (ph) is set up and you see the fans in the crowd, weekly (ph) you're going to get, you knew it was going to be something special.

We were unfortunate last year to get knocked out quite early but it's worked out well and been it's an incredible journey. And you know, hopefully it's the first of many more to come.

JEFF LARENTOWICZ, ATLANTA UNITED MIDFIELDER: Miguel has --- he's has done so much for us. He gets us out of so much trouble. He puts the other team on their heels and Josef is the guy that finishes it off. You saw tonight, it was kind of a half chance. He dribbles around the goalkeeper and finishes it off.

They've done that over and over and over for two years and this is the culmination of all of that.

BRAD GUZAN, ATLANTA UNITED GOALKEEPER: Yes, this is up there high (ph). It's not every day you get to win a title or a championship. So to be a part of this, it's truly special.

SNELL: These are the celebrations and what a sendoff for Tata Martino, the club's head coach. He's confirmed he's leaving the club at the end of the current season and you can see why they are celebrating for huge. This is also the city's first championship since 1995 -- in a very happy home dressing room, I'm Patrick Snell.

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HOWELL: Patrick, thank you.

This is something Atlanta needed for sure, certainly after that Super Bowl that we just don't need to talk about.

A powerful winter storm is sweeping across the southern U.S. It's already dropping large amounts of snow in parts of Texas, the Panhandle there, and threatening other states in the East. We'll have the forecast as NEWSROOM continues.

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[04:50:00]

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm George Howell.

A major winter storm is creating dangerous conditions for millions of people across the southern and central U.S. Here's the Texas Panhandle. People in Lubbock, Texas, woke up to this weekend. The city blanketed in more than 10 inches or 25 centimeters of snow in one day. That's more than Lubbock usually gets in an entire year.

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HOWELL: Now coming up on CNN, you'll meet 10 remarkable trailblazers who have truly changed the world, the CNN Heroes. Their efforts will be celebrated during "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute." It airs live this Sunday at 8:00 pm Eastern, Monday morning in Asia, only here on CNN.

And, again, we thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM at this hour. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Let's do it again. Another hour of news after the break. Stay with us.